For centuries people have been using Benzodiazepines for anxiety. It is a well-known fact that Benzodiazepines cause the built up of tolerance and dependence.
In such cases, the use of Benzodiazepines for anxiety can create more problems. This is where people started looking for alternative drugs.
Something that could cure your anxiety without get you addicted or creating further health issues. This is when kava was discovered.
An herbal supplement that has been providing relief to thousands of people as an anxiolytic substance.
You’ll see many research and studies conducted on Kava and its role in anxiety. However, this article will focus on how to take Kava for anxiety, so continue reading!
What is Kava?
Kava kava is an herbal plant that originates from various countries in the South Pacific region and Western Pacific region.
It is generically called Piper Methysticum which means intoxicating pepper.
The root of kava is known to cause relaxation and it is an amazing remedy for ailments like anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
It is as effective as tranquilizers and benzodiazepines in treating anxiety and insomnia, but the point worth noting is that Kava doesn’t develop dependence and intolerance.
Instead one develops reverse tolerance to Kava, which means that you require a lesser dose of Kava to produce the same effects.
The active ingredients of kava kava are kavalactones, kavapyrones, glutathione etc. They come in various types and their properties differ depending on a number of certain kavalactones.
Therefore, various strains of kava kava have various effects, similar to Kratom. The kavalactones include kawain/kavain, dihydrokawain, methysticin, dihydromethysticin, yangonin, and desmethoxyyangonin.
How does kava kava act?
The active constituents of kava kava are known as kavalactones and they are phytonutrients.
Kavapyrones play a minor role in the action of Kava. Kava is also known as the ‘Nature’s Valium’ due to its efficacy against anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias.
Kava is a known anxiolytic according to research and it doesn’t have the side effects of the prescription drugs which include dependence and tolerance. The mechanism of action of Kava is mentioned below;
- It increases the activity of GABA on the GABA ‘A’ receptors. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It reduces the nerve impulse firing activity of the neurons. Thus Kava potentiates the action of GABA like that of benzodiazepines.
- Kava kava reduces the activity of noradrenaline by inhibiting the reuptake mechanism of noradrenaline into the neuron. Noradrenaline or norepinephrine increases the activity of brain thus causing anxiety, tachycardia, and rapid breathing.
- Kava promotes the release of dopamine.
- Kava activates the glutaminergic pathway.
- Kava enhances the release of serotonin.
- To some extent, kava may cause the suppression of pain pathway.
Kavain is the main kavalactone that helps in alleviating anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety disorders/Anxiety is a general term that is used for a number of disorders including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and a number of phobias.
Day to day anxiety that one feels because of workload or exams is a normal phenomenon. Anxiety means you are nervous 24/7.
You are worried about something and you think you can’t fix it, so you are not able to concentrate on anything and basically, you stay in a panicked state. You feel your heart racing all the time.
Sometimes you even might feel palpitations. Your resting pulse is greater than 90 beats per minute. You may develop headaches and your sleep, as well as social life, is impaired.
Anxiety is a mental illness, the way depression and schizophrenia are. It’s not something that you can just call a minor fluctuation of behavior from normal.
Anxiety is crippling, a feeling of intense discomfort, the shaking of limbs, the trembling of lips when you speak, the sweating when you have a panic attack.
Some of the symptoms of anxiety include; panic, uneasiness, fear, sleep disorders, cold and sweaty hands or feet, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, inability to stay calm and still, shaking, dry mouth, tense muscles, nausea, and dizziness.
How to take Kava for anxiety?
Kava can be taken in the form of tea, capsule, powder or liquid form. The daily intake of Kava for anxiety should not exceed 250-300mg in any of the forms mentioned.
- Kava tea This is the most common method to take Kava for anxiety.The tea is brewed in hot water. Ensure that only kava root is used in the tea to avoid any adverse effects.Some brands also sell kava tea bags which can be readily used. It is recommended not to drink more than 3 cups of kava tea per day.Kava tea has very earthy taste and appears like mud. You can add milk or cream and honey to reduce the muddy taste of the tea.While making Kava tea ensure that you do not boil the water as it can destroy the kavalactones.
- Kava tincture/liquid The liquid form of Kava is very potent and it has a whiskey-like taste. It is sold in small bottles; size ranging from 2-6 ounces.It is the distilled root of kava and contains concentrated of kavalactones making it very potent.It can either be taken via dropper or mixed in juice to make the taste a little pleasant. Ensure that you take a very small dose of Kava tincture as it is highly concentrated.
- Kava capsules These contain Kava powder and they are easily ingested. Those persons who can’t tolerate the unpleasant taste of Kava can take it in the form of capsules.Capsules containing more 30% of kavalactones should be avoided. Kava capsules can be purchased or made at home.
- Kavalactone Paste It is a highly concentrated paste of kavalactones that can be quite expensive but it is needed in very little amounts. It contains 24 plus alkaloids of the Kava plant that give the beneficial effects of Kava.
Few Best Instructions on taking Kava for anxiety
Take kava for anxiety in the evening if you decide to take it only once a day. That way you’ll be ready to relax and get calm before going to bed.
It will also give Kava sufficient time to kick in. For best results, take it at least an hour before sleeping.
If you’re taking multiple doses throughout the day, spread them out evenly, with one pill in the morning, one in the afternoon and one before bedtime, provided you are taking Kava tablets/capsules.
Kava tea should be spaced in a similar pattern. In this pattern take a dose of 70 mg of Kava at one time.
Kava can be taken with meals but it will slow down the absorption of Kava from the GIT. Take regular breaks from Kava especially if you are taking it on a daily basis. After every 2 days give it a break. Once a month give yourself a kava free week.
What do research studies say about the use of kava for anxiety?
Kava treatment in patients with anxiety a research by Phytother Res. 2004 Apr was a placebo-controlled double-blind outpatient trial that was done to find more information about the efficacy and dosage of Kava in patients with non-psychotic anxiety.
In this trial, 50 patients were included who were treated thrice a day with a dose of 50mg kava extract for a period of 4 weeks.
The results showed that the total score of the Hamilton anxiety scale reduced in anxiety versus placebo.
Also, kava was well tolerated and showed a safety profile with no drug-related side effects or withdrawal in the 2-week safety observation phase.
What are other treatment options for anxiety?
For a person suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, there are many treatment options that include; assistant of a mental health counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist.
Drugs like Prozac are prescribed. Those who don’t want to take medications can go for the following;
- Lifestyle modification, avoid stressful triggers.
- Dietary changes
- Exercise regularly
What are the side effects of using Kava?
Excess intake of kava can cause damage to the hepatobiliary system. Also, taking other parts of kava, with exception of Kava root may damage hepatocytes.
Kava should not be taken by pregnant and lactating women. Other drugs shouldn’t be taken with kava as these might cause drug interactions.
Excess use of kava kava may cause dermopathy which is a scaly rash similar to psoriasis and results in excessive itching. Kava may cause allergic reactions, loss of appetite and upset stomach.